Social media. We all know how important it is. By now it’s been engrained in our brains as an essential tool for communications and marketing. It’s not breaking news that these platforms are changing our relationship with audiences and creating new opportunities for engaging with them. Social media is about people – connecting and having meaningful interactions. However, it can be difficult to initiate these interactions and motivate audiences to actually want to engage.

One strategy for enhancing social media engagement is through an event. Harnessing the power of these platforms strategically for your event can facilitate interaction, build relationships with audiences, and increase your overall following. Events drive engagement by allowing attendees to access information and share experiences more effectively. So then, what can you do to successfully incorporate social media into your event plan? Here’s a few tips to get you started:

Plan Ahead

Social media can be a great event tool, but won’t be effective without a plan. Layout your objectives and direction in advance. Define your social media goals for the event. Do you want to create awareness? Drive attendance? Increase engagement? Build relationships and connections? Understand the social profile of your target attendees. What networks do they belong to? What types of content are they interested in? When and where are they most active? Develop a timeline and choose which platforms and types of content you’ll use to engage attendees.

Maintain Continuous Engagement

Interact with your audience before, during and after the event. Use social media for pre-event promotion to increase awareness and drive attendance. Build anticipation by announcing featured activities, contests, special guests – anything that might spark interest. Engage attendees via social media during the event to generate additional activity. Incorporating simultaneous online participation can enhance the experience for attendees and provide an opportunity for others to get involved. After your event, don’t let the interaction die out. Continue the conversation with and between attendees to build connections, maintain relationships and develop advocacy.

Know Your Audience

Create content that appeals to your audience and post it when and where they’ll see it. When planning, determine how your audience uses social media – what platforms they’re on and what their norms are. Once you figure this out, interact with them on an ongoing basis. Use a variety of channels based on your knowledge to reach out to your audience, promote your event and encourage participation. Throughout the process, don’t forget to pace yourself. Let enough time pass between posts so you don’t overwhelm audiences, but don’t trail off and lose engagement by not posting enough.

Post Relative Content

When you post, feature content that your audience will want to share. Multimedia elements tend to generate high engagement. Post snapshots or clips to drive traffic to your page and encourage others to share on their personal profiles. Incorporate branding into photos and videos to help promote your organization. Also, nothing motivates people more than the opportunity to win something free. Use a contest to spur interest and engagement. People love to share their opinions. Asking simple and interesting questions can be a great way to initiate valuable conversations.

Make It Easy to Engage

When you post, make it easy for your audience to engage. If it’s too complicated or too many steps are involved, attendees won’t want to take part. Use platforms they’re familiar with and can access easily. Empower people to share their own experiences. Include social media links on event materials and encourage attendees to tag you or use your hashtag. Hashtagging your event helps people connect in a quick and simple way. Overall, be clear and consistent when you post and be accessible to respond and interact with audiences.

Event Engagement in Action

To illustrate event engagement in action, consider the following project DNA worked on with Clemson University’s Office of Distance Education. Twice a year, CUinGreenville hosts a week-long event to recognize students known as Student Appreciation Week. In an effort to enhance social media engagement, we incorporated Facebook and Twitter into the event plan to drive traffic to these pages and increase interaction. We cross-promoted the event in person and on social media, encouraging students to attend activities, participate online and share their experiences. We strategically scheduled posts and tweets using HootSuite to hit target times before activities or when audiences were most likely online, and to space out interaction so it remained steady.

Prior to the event, we posted and tweeted announcements about featured activities and reminded students to attend and participate digitally. During the week, we incorporated activity reminders, event highlights and contest questions. We featured photos and videos of attendees, including students posing with the Tiger mascot and short interviews. We handed out cards with a QR code and link to encourage attendees to visit and like the Facebook page. We also hosted a Digital Post-It Board asking questions as part of a giveaway contest. Following the week, we announced contest winners,  thanked attendees, and reminded them to check out highlights and share their own. To maintain interest and continue our loyal following, we transitioned by posting and tweeting about other things – football games, upcoming events, degree programs, etc. – and continued to do so regularly.

Overall our efforts surrounding Student Appreciation Week proved successful in growing audience engagement with CUinGreenville’s Facebook and Twitter. Both pages increased in likes and follows, and more people interacted more frequently with our posts and tweets. Not only were we able to enhance engagement through the event,  but by incorporating branding in photos and videos and by featuring student responses, we were also able to increase awareness and promote CUinGreenville.

CUinGreenville students posing with the Tiger during Student Appreciation Week.

CUinGreenville students posing with the Tiger during Student Appreciation Week.

The students just couldn’t get enough of the Tiger, and loved sharing their photos with friends on Facebook!